Photographer based in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jaka Teršek, Portrait of the photographer
Tell us about yourself, what's your background?
I was born in Slovenia, a tiny country where the Mediterranean, Dinaric, Pannonian, and Alpine worlds meet. As a child I never thought of becoming an artist of any sort, that was just never an option. I wanted to become a farmer for a long time because I was so intensely drawn to the outside world. This is one of the reasons why photography made so much sense to me when I discovered it when I was 13. As I was always afraid of many things before that, the camera gave me a tool to communicate with the world and to be a part of it. I did my BA in photography at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, followed by an MFA in photography from Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in Belgium. Only after that I realised that I might be doing something related to art. Before that, photography was just an excuse, an escape from the ordinary.
OWL, FOX, HEDGEHOG, DEER, 2021-2022
Janko in Metka, 2022, digital photography; "Imagine a street full of elderly people. There is an unwritten game being played every day. The rules are simple: the early bird needs to open the window blinds. That way the neighbours who get up later feel ashamed. Now imagine there lives an old woman who cheats. At 4 A.M. she opens the shades and goes back to sleep."
"The majority of my projects stem from a question of what is Slovenian identity made of. Because of its unique geographical and historical position situated between Slavic, Germanic and Roman influences, our country fought hard to find its own way into existence and still struggles with its own identity. Currently I continue working on a long-term project around my hometown in Slovenia."
The Army, 2022, digital photography
What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?
Apart from commissioned work that I do for a living I could say that the majority of my personal projects stem from a question of what is Slovenian identity made of. Because of its unique geographical and historical position situated between Slavic, Germanic and Roman influences, our country fought hard to find its own way into existence and still struggles with its own identity. Currently I continue working on a long-term project around my hometown in Slovenia. Although I have already published a part of it in a newspaper titled "Owl, Fox, Hedgehog, Deer", I still continue writing short stories and making new photographs.
Melania Trump, digital photography, 2022; "l am driving to the town where Melania Trump grew up. I read that there is a newly built statue of her. This must be her second sculpture because the first one was made of wood but someone burnt it down. After shooting the bronze icon, I decided to treat myself to the famous Melania cake in the town center. A single slice costs 4 euros and I did not eat it there. The next day I wanted to taste it but it was too late - my parents already ate it."
I want to create a collection of words and images which could give you a glimpse into an internal "psyche" of a place and take you on a journey of facts and fantasy. I am interested in blurring the lines between fiction and documentary, while looking at local folklore, mythology, traditions, set of beliefs etc. Texts that accompany these photographs are sometimes real stories that I heard from my grandparents, friends and strangers on the streets or they exist as local myths. Although I belong less and less to these places I still feel a strong connection. This is the reason why I keep investigating what makes this place so special to me and (hopefully) also to others.
A Reminder, 2022, digital photography
Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in a creative practice. What do you do for inspiration?
I normally get inspired by nature itself. I love to do outdoor sports, especially hiking. While doing that I can clear my mind enough to give space for new ideas to arise. I rarely get inspired by being in a museum, gallery or just generally looking at visual art.
The Baroque, 2022, digital photography
Describe your practice and process. Where do ideas start for you? In the studio or being in the world?
For me it is necessary to regularly talk with my friends and discuss bizarre scenarios and ideas. The first phases of any creative project should always be unconstrained and out of spontaneity. The more you progress towards the end of a project, the more organized your process needs to become. Since photography is in most cases a solo practice I think it is important to show people what you are working on, to get feedback and to improve. Artworks will eventually be seen by other people so I think it is important to hear other opinions. That does not mean that you have to stick to them.
A Monkey, 2022, digital photography; "1983, a monkey died in a local bar. The autopsy showed that he had a lump of chewing gum stuck in his stomach. His liver was also poor from drinking too much alcohol. His name was Mr. Nillson."
How do you make your work, does it start with a sketch?
It happened only recently that I started pre-visualising or "sketching" my photographs before they are actually made. Before that I would just go out, take photographs and then make use of it. Now I like to know what I am aiming for because I want to understand what I want to photograph. I find this challenging because you never know what is going to happen when you go out chasing an idea. About "my style" I am not that sure.
Prežganka, 2022, digital photography
Newspapers of "Owl, Fox, Hedgehog, Deer"
Spread from a newspaper.
Do you have your own studio ritual? What does that look like for you?
Since photography can happen anywhere at all times it is hard to have a specific studio ritual, at least for me. The only thing that matters is just to be consistent and work as much as possible.
Stairway to Heaven, 2022, digital photography
Who are your biggest influences?
In terms of photography I would say Jason Fulford, Andreas Gursky, William Eggleston, Stojan Kerbler, Manfred Willmann and Geert Goiris. Films of Werner Herzog also had a huge impact on me. I love how he approaches the topics and his sense of humour. I also appreciate sculptures of Erwin Wurm, spatial installations of Olafur Eliasson and Marc Chagall's paintings. Recently I am rediscovering art projects of the Slovenian collective NSK. Music also influenced me a lot. Throughout my high school years I listened to a lot of Pink Floyd and other guitar-driven music. Nowadays I like listening to Slovenian artists such as Martin Krpan, Marko Brecelj and Matter, but also IDLES, Fontaines D.C., James Blake, Disclosure, Four Tet, Fred Again…,
The Holy Mushroom, 2022, digital photography
Are there books or films that are an important source of inspiration?
As a kid I was obsessed with Shrek. I am also a huge fan of documentary films such as Honeyland from Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, Safari from Ulrich Seidl and Czech Dream from Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda. Not to mention BBC documentaries narrated by Sir David Attenborough. Recently I really loved the movie Aftersun from Charlotte Wells and Triangle Of Sadness from Ruben Östlund, of whom I am also a big fan. In terms of books I read too much non-fiction. Absolute favourite: Gun, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.
Drevored, 2022, digital photography
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
"Dober gospodar kupuje, ne prodaja", which means: "A good master only buys, never sells". I don't know why it stuck with me, haha.
What is the best advice you would give to other artists?
Keep working and please have fun when you do that.